Yomiuri Editorial: Main blame lies with Tojo

The Showa War was launched and terminated by leaders who lost their grip on international reality and veered from responsible politics.

Of them, we believe the person most responsible for the Showa War was Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. Likewise, more than 10 political and military leaders, including Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe, should be held heavily responsible for erring in the conduct of state affairs. In addition, elite military officers and high-ranking bureaucrats who supported these leaders cannot shirk their responsibility.

Learning about Japan's grave mistakes can lead to consoling the victims of the war--even if just slightly--and also to fulfilling this generation's responsibility to our future generations.

What positions and roles did Hideki Tojo assume in the Showa War, which included the Manchurian Incident, the Sino-Japanese War and the Japan-U.S. War?

Utmost blame must be placed on Tojo when we look at war responsibilities from two aspects: responsibility for launching the war, and for continuing the fighting when defeat was inescapable. The first aspect refers to the escalation from the Sino-Japanese War to the war with Britain and the United States. The latter stemmed from the decision to initiate hostilities with the United States while knowing that Japan stood little chance of prevailing and the failure to employ effective measures to bring the war to an early end.

Role of combat commander

Tojo's involvement in the Showa War began in March 1928, the third year of the Showa era.

At the time, he was a senior staff member--a post equivalent to that of acting section chief in today's government hierarchy--of the Army Affairs Section of the Military Affairs Bureau of the War Ministry.

During a meeting of the Mokuyo-kai (Thursday Society) that grouped reformist bureaucrats of the military, Tojo declared, "We will establish an absolute political force in the Manchuria-Inner Mongolia area."

Mokuyo-kai members included military elites who formulated and determined national policies in the War Ministry and the Army General Staff. Tojo, along with Tetsuzan Nagata and Yasuji Okamura who had been Tojo's senior by one year at the Army Military Academy, aimed to topple elements from what was the Choshu clan (now Yamaguchi Prefecture), who had dominated the mainstay of the military since the Meiji Restoration. They also wanted to prepare the entire nation for an all-out war and establish the prerogative of supreme command.

As the aftermath of World War I showed the necessity of national mobilization for an all-out war, Mokuyo-kai members believed Japan would have to secure Manchuria to effect national mobilization.

For them, the 1928 assassination of Chang Tso-lin (Zhang Zuolin), a warlord in northern China, engineered by Kwantung Army staff officer Daisaku Komoto, meant the heralding of a massive reform of the nation.

When the Manchurian Incident occurred in September 1931, Tojo was chief of the 1st Section (operations and mobilization) of the Army General Staff. From 1935-1938, he served as military police commander and chief of staff of the Kwantung Army. During this period, the Manchurian Incident escalated into the Sino-Japanese War....

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